Here’s a funny story for you…
I’m an Aussie, living between Austin, TX and the mountains of Colorado (my husband and I split time between these two homes and list them on Airbnb when we’re not there, we also have a converted van and spend as much time as we can on the road and adventuring – perk #785 of working remotely).
Our team at Growmotely are fully globally distributed, right now that includes Bolivia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania and most recently, Tunisia.
On Friday’s at noon (my time) we have an online social hour where whoever is around can drop in and chat, and the only rule is we don’t talk about work. This is purely for hanging out and enjoying each other’s company as people, not just team mates.
A few weeks back we got onto a conversation about water and power in our respective countries of residence, and shared stories about how things work (or don’t work) in different parts of the world. Cass was telling us about the load shedding of power in Lagos, that results in big chunks of the day, any day, where the power is down. Gato told hilarious stories about the time La Paz had no water for four months and how they navigated day to day life, and things like bathing. 🙂
Of course, I shared that while I’d experienced lots of these types of scenarios in my worldly adventures, it wasn’t a part of life in Australia (where I grew up) or here in the US (where I live now)…
Not 48 hours later, Texas experienced a freak deep freeze. We lost power overnight as a huge storm rolled through and dumped over a foot of snow on the state that rarely gets more than a dusting once or twice a year. It was below 12 celcius for the next few days, and the state shut down. Texas doesn’t have snow plows, or the ability to salt the roads, or any of the normalities that exist in say Colorado, or other places in the world where it snows regularly.
We had very little cell service, no heat, no internet and no water.
I couldn’t even get emails out to cancel my meetings that Monday, I simply didn’t turn up! We stayed in our house another night and lit candles in our bedroom, and added extra blankets to the bed, to try to stay warm. (Survival side note: candles in a small space actually do provide some heat!)
Thankfully we have a car that has winter tires, so after two days of no heat, no power, no water and no internet we made a very slow treck out to my in-laws home (usually a 30 min drive that took us almost two hours as we navigated a highway covered in snow that hadn’t been plowed or driven on – most Texans don’t have appropriate tires on their vehicles to drive in conditions like this, so the roads were deserted). We holed up there for the rest of the week where we at least had rolling power and cold water, kind of like the load shedding they have in Nigeria!
It was a humbling experience to say the least.
As I made my way through the week, rescheduling meetings and apologizing for not turning up to things on the Monday, I reflected on the conversation we’d had as a team just days before. On how confidently I’d exclaimed that ‘things like that’ don’t happen in the US, and how much more difficult it was for us to cope when they did.
Supermarket shelves were empty, as people panic bought. Most people literally were stuck in their homes without any form of appropriate transport. It was snowpocalypse.
I saw a note go out from Cass to a contact we have here in Texas following up something that was overdue, and their rude reply to her ‘shocked’ that she be chasing them up in the middle of this state wide emergency. That made me laugh thinking how sensitive (and insular) we can be to our own circumstances, yet oblivious to the fact others around the world navigate challenges like this several times a week. Let’s just say Nigerians have way better back-up internet and ability to connect when the power’s down than I did that week!
As I kept our team up to date, sharing my own funny stories about showering in the back garden with a pot of hot water from the stove top later that week after we returned home to a new fountain installation down the side of the house (read: busted hot water system and burst pipes), I felt super grateful to be connected to people from all over the planet through my work.
To be able to move through something like this with the grace and perspective that it was just an experience. To be able to chuckle at it, because just the week before we were laughing at how Theo had recently finally conceded and checked into a hotel in Bucharest after two weeks without hot water, just wanting to soak in a hot bath! To be able to share in day to day life with people spread all over the world, and the diversity and grounding that can bring us.
This is the gift of working in this way. With people who’re so dedicated and aligned with what we’re building and what we stand for, yet come from such different cultures and backgrounds.
It’s a breath of fresh air.
It’s dissolving our unconscious biases toward what’s different.
It’s ‘waking up’ every single day.
It’s remembering we are all the same.
Article by CEO and Founder Sarah Hawley